City leaders hold off on extending eviction moratorium—for now

Whether the City Council will extend a moratorium on evictions that has shielded Long Beach renters from displacement since March is a question that will have to wait until the end of the month.

The city’s current moratorium runs through July 31, but Tuesday night the council asked for more information about how the Los Angeles County moratorium could impact Long Beach renters before it makes its decision.

The council adopted its first moratorium in March; it was set to expire at the end of May before being extended to run through the end of July. Under the moratorium, tenants have been allowed to miss paying rents entirely, or make partial payments, with the balance of what was missed between March and July due by the end of July 2021.

The county, which the council has generally aligned its policies with, also has a moratorium that runs through the end of July but it has held the right to extend it on a monthly basis. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors met Tuesday but did not discuss the eviction moratorium.

Gov. Gavin Newsom also instituted an eviction moratorium statewide that runs through the end of September.

It’s unclear whether the county moratorium would apply to Long Beach residents if the council were to let the current city moratorium expire, however, special provisions the city put into its version surrounding properties at the Port of Long Beach and the airport would likely be lost if the city didn’t lobby the county to include them.

Deputy City Attorney Rich Anthony cautioned that the council should not move forward under the assumption that the county’s moratorium would apply to Long Beach renters, but added that it’s “widely expected” that the county will extend its version.

Anthony explained that the city does have the option to extend its moratorium through September to align with the statewide executive order issued by the governor.

The discussion Tuesday took place just days after Long Beach and other cities rolled back some re-openings due to a statewide surge in COVID-19 cases. The closures of bars and tasting rooms and the elimination of indoor dining over the next few weeks, and possibly beyond, could have big impacts on residents who held those jobs and were set to return to work.

Councilwoman Mary Zendejas noted the closures in voicing her support for swift action by the council to align with the county.

“This is a crisis,” Zendejas said. “And this crisis is certainly not over.”

The moratorium has been a divisive issue with landlords demanding that the moratorium end so that rents can be collected from tenants, allowing them to pay their mortgages, and housing rights advocates demanding that rent be forgiven due to the devastating economic impacts the pandemic has had on local workers.

Last month the council tabled a proposed plan that could have mandated partial repayments of back-rent by tenants who missed or made incomplete payments during the moratorium. There is concern from all sides that a balloon payment due at the end of next July could trigger a wave of evictions next summer.

A study by the UCLA Luskin Institute in late May estimated that between 36,000 and 120,000 households in LA County could become homeless due to pandemic-induced evictions.

The council is expected to call an emergency meeting at the end of the month to discuss a possible oil production tax measure at which the eviction moratorium could also be discussed.

That discussion could center on amending its policy to work with whatever the county chooses to do over the next few weeks or whether the council should extend the moratorium or let it lapse. Once the moratorium ends, full rents will be due for all Long Beach renters.

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Jason Ruiz has been covering City Hall for the Post for nearly a decade. A Long Beach resident, Ruiz graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a degree in journalism. He and his wife Kristina and, most importantly, their dog Mango, live in Long Beach. He is a particularly avid fan of the Dallas Cowboys and the UCLA Bruins, which is why he sometimes comes to work after the weekend in a grumpy mood.